Turin, the capital of fashion

Palazzo Madama

The golden XIXth century of fashion in Torino

Tailor's shops in Turin 
At the beginning of the XXth century, the fame of Turin as a capital of fashion was connected to the excellence of its commercial and manufacturing activities. Great Exhibitions stimulated competition and led Torino’s products to excel in the international market. Paris was the landmark, and Turin relaunched its models with a refined know-how. Born in Turin in 1932, the Ente Autonomo per la Moda Nazionale (National Independent Authority for Fashion), then National Agency of Fashion, opened the first National Exhibit of Fashion in April 1933, an event that was repeated every spring and fall. The Agency encouraged the development of an Italian style, independent from the French model. It enhanced the fibers and fabrics produced in Italy: hemp and rayon derived from cellulose and were domestic products, and were preferred to jute and cotton, which were imported. It also promoted the creation of Italian models, which were registered and given a hallmark since 1936. 

Dress, overcoat and cloche

Rust hued dress with pleated panel skirt and floral applique in pleated chenille ribbon on one side of skirt. Flat Peter pan cream collar, cuffed sleeves with pleated insert. Flared overcoat with stand up collar and decorative inserts placed perpendicularly. The cloche hat in a mexicaine viscose and with a lacquered metal buckle was purchase in Paris in 1924 and contains the following label: 'Modes Lucie Hamar 10, rue Richepanse Paris'. The outfit was worn by Jolanda Marzari Chiesa on her wedding day in Turin in 1926.

Floral dress
1930 - 1935

Black female dress with red and blue hued flowers brocaded in golden thread in a watercolor effect. Asymettric cut with diagonally arranged godets and draped turndown collar knotted on one side. At the waist the dress is paired with a belt in matching fabric, embellished with an oval buckle encrusted with rhinestones.

Wedding dress

Flowing dress in black lace with diagonale tailoring and bias cut skirt. Thin buckled belt of matching fabric, slip in black silk satin. Originally, the dress was ankle length and had three-quarters sleeves. It was worn by Angela Ferrero on her wedding day, December 7th 1931.

Women's blouse

Blouse with short puffed sleeves, with pussy bow collar and waist basque.

Day dress
1940 - 1950

Short sleeved dress, diagonally tailored below the bust and on the hips, with V-cut neckline gathered by wrinkled ruffling. The fabric, of a blue Savoy colour, is decorated with white circular patterns of marine, or vaguely oriental, inspirations.


Petrol blue dress with loose-fitting bodice and below the knee flared skirt. The crew-neck neckline is embellished with horizontal ribbing which highlights the straight cut of the shoulders and the fitted hip tailoring. Long sleeves narrowed by a cuff. The dress was worn by Giovanna Vacchino Merlo for her engagement.

Engagement photo of Giovanna Vacchino Merlo

Wedding Dress

The dress mimics the effect of a jacket and skirt ensemble worn over each other. The crew-necked bodice has glove-length sleeves, a tailored waist and an ample basque at the hips. The flared skirt covers the knees. Wedding dress worn by Giovanna Vacchino Merlo.

«I was introduced to Alessandro by my brother. We lived in the same house, in via Oropa. He was a mechanic, with little money, after the war. We got engaged in 1947 and got married on May 23, 1948 in the church of Santa Croce. No reception, no honeymoon, to set up house. But the engagement ring was beautiful: antique, rose gold, high on the finger, with a diamond rosette at the center. He must have spent more than a month's pay. The seamstress I used to work for made me two dresses, short one, as it was customary in wartime, to save fabric and to be able to reuse them. However, I've never worn them again, not even the petroleum blue one from the engagement, so pretty with those ribs and wide sleeves. It will always be a memory of a time that was poor, but happy and full of hope.»

Giovanna Vacchino Merlo

Evening Dress
1950 - 1955

One shoulder ivory evening dress, with draped collar around the neckline only on one side. The stole is lined in black velvet, as is the hem of the broadly flared skirt, decorated with glass paste marquise beads. Label : Pozzi Torino. The dress was worn by Teresa Barovero for a New Years Eve party at the 'La Stampa' members club in Turin; it is inspired by a fashionable Dior dress model of 1952.

Discreetly, garments and accessories also tell intimate, personal stories of the women who have worn them. They retain the memory of a happy moment, the excitement of an important meeting, or the memory of a loved person.

Skirt suit

Skirt suit with curved hem edging, narrowly tailored waist, lapels and twisted buttons with a mother of pearl effect. Fluttering skirt with pleated panels. This skirt suit ensemble was worn by Angela Rosmino on her honeymoon.

The fashion workshops

In 1946, Turin organized the first National Exhibition of the art of fashion. Thus, the city seeks to recover the leadership from the period between the wars, but in the fifties the importance of other places, including Florence, Rome and Milan increased. In Turin, the SAMIA, Salone Mercato Internazionale dell’Abbigliamento (International Clothing Market Fair) presented haute couture along with prêt-à-porter, a field in which the Gruppo Finanziario Tessile excelled, working with the most prominent Italian maisons. Tailor’s shops are still protagonist in urban style and nationally famous, with millineries, the footwear workshops, which hold an exceptional craft heritage and craft skills. Shops and workshops mark the city center: Via Roma, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, via Pietro Micca, Via Po hve the most luxurious boutiques, surrounded by many shops of fabrics, haberdashery and supplies.

Cocktail Dress
1958 - 1963

The straight lined dress has straps embroidered with silver purl, and a decorative bow on the left strap. The skirt is embroidered with bugle and pearl beads in a diamond shaped pattern, the back reveals a double slit and a longer fabric panel. A black knotted ribbon tightens the waist.

Day dress
1960 - 1965

Short, above the knee, A-line dress in yellow crêpe with white collar and black satin bow; buttoned at the front with lowered waist line. Ilene Piliago, known as Donna Ilene, opens he atelier Turin atelier in via Bertola 25 after studying fashion in Paris. A native of Trieste, she began her career dressing dolls.

Cocktail Dress

The dress is composed of two elements: a sheath dress with straps, tailored at the waist, and a sleeveless overdress with a round neckline at front and deep back neckline, aligned with the split. Two bows decorate the back, one at the waist and one at the end of the neckline.

Cocktail Dress, Capucci
1988 - 1989

The cocktail sheath dress is characterised by the broad cape-like sleeves which are entirely edged, as is the skirt, with appliqués of pleated black and fuschia discs. The back reveals a deep neckline. Emy Badolato was a leading figure of Turin's high fashion in the Seventies and Eighties. In 1957 she becomes a widow and take the reins of her husband's tailor shop. She specialises in cocktail and evening dresses, draped and tailored, parallel to those by Capucci, Ferré and Valentino; from whom she purchases models and replicates in her elegant dressmaking ship of corso Vittorio 76. Ultimately, closing her business in 1994.

Credits: Story

Exhibit by:
Maria Paola Ruffino, Curatore per le arti decorative, Palazzo Madama
Coordinamento: Carlotta Margarone, Responsabile Comunicazione, Fondazione Torino Musei
Inserimento: Valentina Lo Faro e Francesca Papasergi
Traduzioni: Alessandro Malusà

Credits: All media
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